A Novel Tool to Identify Bactericidal Compounds against Vulnerable Targets in Drug-Tolerant M. tuberculosis found in Caseum.
Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Journal:mBio, Volume: 14, Issue: 2
Caseous necrosis is a hallmark of tuberculosis (TB) pathology and creates a niche for drug-tolerant persisters within the host. Cavitary TB and high bacterial burden in caseum require longer treatment duration. An model that recapitulates the major features of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) in caseum would accelerate the identification of compounds with treatment-shortening potential. We have developed a caseum surrogate model consisting of lysed and denatured foamy macrophages. Upon inoculation of Mtb from replicating cultures, the pathogen adapts to the lipid-rich matrix and gradually adopts a nonreplicating state. We determined that the lipid composition of caseum and the surrogate matrix are similar. We also observed that Mtb in caseum surrogate accumulates intracellular lipophilic inclusions (ILI), a distinctive characteristic of quiescent and drug-tolerant Mtb. Expression profiling of a representative gene subset revealed common signatures between the models. Comparison of Mtb drug susceptibility in caseum and caseum surrogate revealed that both populations are similarly tolerant to a panel of TB drugs. By screening drug candidates in the surrogate model, we determined that the bedaquiline analogs TBAJ876 and TBAJ587, currently in clinical development, exhibit superior bactericidal against caseum-resident Mtb, both alone and as substitutions for bedaquiline in the bedaquiline-pretomanid-linezolid regimen approved for the treatment of multidrug-resistant TB. In summary, we have developed a physiologically relevant nonreplicating persistence model that reflects the distinct metabolic and drug-tolerant state of Mtb in caseum. M. tuberculosis (Mtb) within the caseous core of necrotic granulomas and cavities is extremely drug tolerant and presents a significant hurdle to treatment success and relapse prevention. Many models of nonreplicating persistence have been developed to characterize the physiologic and metabolic adaptations of Mtb and identify compounds active against this treatment-recalcitrant population. However, there is little consensus on their relevance to infection. Using lipid-laden macrophage lysates, we have designed and validated a surrogate matrix that closely mimics caseum and in which Mtb develops a phenotype similar to that of nonreplicating bacilli . The assay is well suited to screen for bactericidal compounds against caseum-resident Mtb in a medium-throughput format, allowing for reduced reliance on resource intensive animal models that present large necrotic lesions and cavities. Importantly, this approach will aid the identification of vulnerable targets in caseum Mtb and can accelerate the development of novel TB drugs with treatment-shortening potential.